Christmas, Violence and God
Yesterday, December 29th, the Orthodox Christian calendar marks the commemoration of the Holy Innocents.
According to the biblical account, Herod ordered all the male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem to be slaughtered, because he had heard from the Magi that a king was born there and he wanted to eliminate any threats to his throne.
According to Church tradition, 14,000 infants were massacred.
After a Christmas season of singing “Joy to the World!” this day is a stark reminder that God’s Incarnation into this world results in a violence the evil of which is hard to imagine.
The historic Christmas was not all sugar plums and figgy pudding.
This commemoration of these precious infants seems pertinent in this day and age when violence and God are often married together to ligitimize the actions of groups and governments as they terrorize and destroy innocent people.
The difference with this story, however, is that God comes to the earth not with drone missles, suicide bombers, preemptive strikes or 737’s.
He comes as a baby, helpless and homeless. He who holds the universe in His hand, was wrapped in swaddling clothes.
That His coming is accompanied by the violence of Herod is evidence that the world (read: our hearts) thinks of power differently than does God –that it will seek to seize that power however it can in its frantic existential anxiety.
The darkness prefers darkness.
It makes sense to me that when true peace and love are brought into a place that is not used to it, it causes violent reactions. Like a red hot iron rod dipped into a bucket of cold water. Until the water heats, it reacts violently to the superheated metal.
Let us remember those slain 2,000 years ago and those slain even today and ask God to heat us up and rid our hearts of violence.